Poetics

demolishing a mental institution

is it, for instance, like the demolishing of a church,
consulting the plans from Solomon’s great,
starting from the altar, the tabernacle, moving towards pillars,
where are the hymn books donated to,
the pamphlets advertising choir practice, vigils, jumuia,
where does the congregation go next Sunday, is there an exit plan,
do they give up worship,
do they build temples of each other,
the angels, the saints, do they find other homes,
like madness, does God follow them everywhere,
what becomes of their knees,
hurting from too much kneeling,
what becomes of greetings after Mass when they linger,
anxious to go home and start a big lunch,
what becomes of sermons that, although meant to heal,
are quickly forgotten, and they must go back home,
the bread, what becomes of it,
who becomes the new master in charge, the warden?
what becomes of the old lady who sells rosaries?
or, is this demolition like the foreclosure of a failing gallery?
who has failed – the institution or the artist?
or those now without a church, those who prolong healing.
what happens to all those installations and paintings in need of care?
and my uncle, now back home after years behind their bars,
presents a paper on certain cichlids and a blood parasite.
dreaming of nights in Marrakesh, he makes a call for sallah,
a smile of victory on his face, saying: you think you could get
rid of me so easily, me, now without a church? who do you think started the fire? the exit plan? the cleaning up?
who do you think summons God in these parts?
who is warden and who the timekeeper,
who restores the old paintings of dictators,
who curves tiny birds from the bones of dead lovers?

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Poetics

early life & castration of Zheng He

you’ve gone out into that tower of discontent, of our holy mother, the saint,
st. teresa of avila, aquinas, augustine — whatever needs we will ever have for confessions.
you’ve seen doctors, spent a fortune on medicine and the gestures of amphibian
delight – who was it who said their face is not a democracy?
‘you’ll be in my prayers’ becomes a way of making me disappear into expectation.
medicine, herbs, the old men in our lives, our parents, our manifestos
to childless futures. and your discontent, I cannot help, M, now that you are my life.
we are river islands now, soon to be forgot.
there will be no ceremony to your coming home in long garments,
and whether we are to blame Lot or his daughters,
or the one who sent the angels, or the fact that I’ve been too broke
to afford salt in Nairobi, who’s to say. what else is there now?
instead of hands I offer black ink.
music, birdsong, food, spices – & all these mean nothing now.
I used to think it funny that you cannot dance,
now it only makes me sad.
cries of the kitten mean nothing now that I am a man with
no empathy for the suffering of animals, a man in love
with one who loves strays.

shall I now hold you? make
you pasta? play you Ayub Ogada? recline
from your mercy? ask for
forgiveness?

& why does your body now feel like it belongs under water?
not god-like, but like sculpture, like a Zheng He ship?
like a bad and long childhood, like a flightless bird,
like the figurine of our mutual discontent?
i carry all my saints with me, they belong to you.

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Poetics

how to drive a tank and other tips for the modern gentleman

first time i came across a beluga whale i had no hands,
found myself thinking about harold pinter, whale was thinking about
the dreams of other fish,
so caught up in the funk that it thought i was six, again.

‘towards nothing’ — what shall we say, are the remains
of the day?

my white whale is a recurring dream,
i will not see doctors,
doctors will see me.

somedays the extremities are cold —
two shots of coffee and i’m ready to go.

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Poetics

James on his death bed

i am with you on limuru road.
i am with you at the archive,
i am with you in all definitions of crisis.
with you in nairobi.
walking with you in lagos.

i’m with you in machakos,

all these troubled years,

i’m with you everywhere.
i’m with you in harare,
i’m with you in sulurele.
we are back together in our rivers,

we are in love,
we are in tears,
we are in orbiting space,
i’m here with you,
we are all gathered together again
for the first time.
James, we are together,
not here — in lodwar.

in kisumu ndogo i am with you,
Torera is with you,
i am not with you.
in Holy Trinity i am with you.

 

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